What skills and traits should CFO’s be looking for on a CV to hire the next member of their modern finance team? This is the go-to guide for CFO’s looking to hire!
This article is co-authored by Chris Argent, GenerationCFO.com and Richard Hughes, CFO, Proactis who recently shared his career highlights in The Shift and will continue this series on high performing finance team talent.
So you’re about to write the job spec for a crucial new role within your modern finance team. It’s a role where you really need to nail the hire and get someone who can hit the ground running. You’ve blocked out some time in your diary to map out the job, but it’s a completely new role, so it’s a blank page. What needs to go on here?
Let’s split this out into skills and traits. You’ll need the right mix of both in the ideal candidate. We’ve got four ideal skills and four important traits. You don’t need to tick all of these boxes, but if you can get most, you’re on to a winner.
The bedrock of knowledge for a valuable member of a digital finance function. This is all about understanding the art of the possible when it comes to data, understanding how to read data effectively, understanding its potential and its limitations. Having a grasp of the systems and sources of data. A candidate with accountancy qualifications will certainly have the analytical mind and skills for some of this, but the ideal candidate will have taken their knowledge further, becoming a true data scientist.
Understanding the data is great, but it’s even better if you can present it in a way that anyone in the organisation can understand. This is not just about clear, readable visuals; it’s also about how you combine threads of data to create a narrative. It’s where you can really start translating knowledge into value.
This is arguably a combination of the above skills, but it is a skill in itself. Those that can read data, visualise it and identify which threads of data and which narratives translate into actionable insights, are the people you really want. The best of these will really understand the specific needs of the organisation and will be able to represent that in the work they do.
Process improvement is par for the course in a digital finance function. A proven understanding of how to streamline and automate these processes. This can create data volumes that your data scientists, visualisers and business intelligence experts can use. This is, however, very learnable – it’s similar, in some ways, to how Excel macros work, so well within the grasp of many team members in the average finance function.
The world is moving quickly these days, so we need to be able to think on our feet. We’ve seen during the pandemic how valuable it is to be able to adapt and pivot at short notice. Plans and budgets went from yearly to monthly to weekly – and with cash flow forecasting, sometimes daily. It’s never been more important to be able to plan for every scenario. We need people who have their finger on the pulse and can adapt to any new technology or environment.
Linked in some ways to agility, this is about being able to see things from an angle that no one else has looked at before. It might be finding a new way of viewing your data that reveals a valuable, business-specific metric, or identifying new commercial opportunities. In the ever-changing modern work environment, innovation is a critical trait.
A growth mindset
If you’re going to be working in a more agile, creative working environment, you need to be prepared to fail fast. A candidate that is willing to keep learning, who owns their mistakes and improves because of them. People with growth mindsets are more likely to embrace challenges and won’t be deterred by hurdles – they will persist until they succeed.
The people in your digital finance function are proactive and outward-facing, working closely with other departments to inform and support them in their decision making. This is where EQ is essential. EQ, or emotional intelligence, can be broken down into five areas: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. People with a high EQ can manage their emotions and understand their strengths and weaknesses. They can put themselves in other people’s shoes and are excellent communicators. They are more likely to be able to influence decisions, win trust across the organisation and work to other people’s goals as well as their own.
Find all of these skills and traits in one candidate, and you’ve essentially got your dream hire. But remember you don’t have to put all of your eggs in one basket. An effective modern finance function works on a mix of people with diverse but complementary skillsets. And of course, most skills – and even traits – can be learned.